The 10th grade cohort of the Saunders Science Scholars was recently selected to participate in the pilot of the NASA Student Ambassador Program at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton City Schools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, and Newport News Public Schools were also chosen to take part in this new initiative.

“We are excited about the NASA Student Ambassador Program and are grateful that we were chosen to engage. Expectations are high for our Saunders Science Scholars and we are extremely proud of their accomplishments thus far,” stated Dr. Crystal Harden, Director of Program and Inclusion Initiatives at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

The goals of the NASA Student Ambassador Program are to spark, inspire and sustain student interest in STEM by sharing NASA’s mission in exploration and discovery; connect students with NASA scientists, engineers, educators, and resources that expose students to STEM content and experiences; encourage growth, learning, collaboration, and communication with peers; and immerse students in the current research and technology at NASA. The program also aims to broaden students desire to choose a STEM career field and boost the future STEM workforce at NASA and other organizations.

Sessions are monthly from October 2022 through April 2023. Requirements for program completion include the mentorship of a 5th grade student, completion of a digital badge, and participation in a culmination project/engineering design challenge.

“We are proud of the scholars for stepping up to the challenge and participating in this remarkable program. NASA is truly committed to broadening exposure to STEM activities and further developing students’ knowledge in these competences,” stated Sherley Jones, Jr., Retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, NASA Employee, and Gates County Community Partnership Director. “We believe in developing leaders and the Student Ambassador Program emboldens, encourages, and stimulates achievement.”

The Saunders Science Scholars program was named in honor of Benjamin C. Saunders, Sr., who was an esteemed educator with Gates County Schools. The program was made possible by a gift from Morehead Advisory Council member, Stephen Butts, and his wife Addie Butts. The goal is to increase students’ science self-efficacy and confidence with STEM disciplines in school and to provide mentoring that encourages students to explore careers in STEM.